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Author Topic: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.  (Read 3606 times)

Jenett

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2011, 05:16:57 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;33564

If I can make a suggestion, SanatanaDharma, you might want to read material written about their religion by a couple of dozen Pagans of different religions, including at least: Traditional Wicca, Neo-Wicca, Asatru, Hellenic Recon, Roman Recon, Kemetic recon, Thelema, Druidism (various varieties), Theistic Satanism, and Philosophical Satanism. Asking others to demonstrate the differences between just these religions is probably asking too much. No one likely has the time to do this for you.

 
And to add some other sources: I've got material on my website that covers some of the differences among religions that identify as Pagan in some form.

http://gleewood.org/seeking/basics/not-in-common/

Other stuff in the http://gleewood.org/seeking/basics index may also be of use to you - though you'll note that most of the "here's stuff Pagan paths sometimes have in common" is much more rooted in practical issues (being a minority religion in the culture, creating spaces and communities without necessarily having fixed buildings, etc.) Many of which are, of course, also shared by small groups of Jews, Muslims, or even Christians in some communities in the Western world.
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SanatanaDharma

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2011, 05:19:23 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;33569
And to add some other sources: I've got material on my website that covers some of the differences among religions that identify as Pagan in some form.

http://gleewood.org/seeking/basics/not-in-common/

Other stuff in the http://gleewood.org/seeking/basics index may also be of use to you - though you'll note that most of the "here's stuff Pagan paths sometimes have in common" is much more rooted in practical issues (being a minority religion in the culture, creating spaces and communities without necessarily having fixed buildings, etc.) Many of which are, of course, also shared by small groups of Jews, Muslims, or even Christians in some communities in the Western world.

 
Thank you, Jenett. :)
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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2011, 05:26:49 pm »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;33559

That would be correct, yes. Which is why I'm trying to better elucidate the actual degrees of difference the practices of those groups, their theological differences, their codes and ethics, etc.


Please understand that you're asking the question "What are the differences between these twenty religions?" without specifying which twenty religions you care about.
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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2011, 09:49:29 pm »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;33559
Darkhawk, if my questions irritate you, you're not required to deal with me. Feel free to ignore them. I'm only curious about two sides I've heard with regards to what "paganism" means (one of which doesn't define it as merely "non-Abrahamic"), and which one is correct.

Your post brings up a few more questions. Which pagan groups believe in one god? Are you referring to soft polytheistic groups? Or are there purely monotheistic pagan groups? I can see how the beliefs of purely monotheistic pagan groups would be irreconcilable with both soft and hard polytheism.



That would be correct, yes. Which is why I'm trying to better elucidate the actual degrees of difference the practices of those groups, their theological differences, their codes and ethics, etc.


 
I don't think they should have anything in common, as though they must. But that begs the question, which I've asked a few times, why identify as "pagan" if the term "non-Abrahamic" would suffice? Why the need for a separate term? Why aren't these forums (which I've very much enjoyed reading) called "The Cauldron: A Non-Abrahamic Religions Forum", for instance.



The problem I see is that you are asking someone to give you a several paragraph description EACH for many different religions.  Are you under the impression that only wiccan type religions fall under this umbrella?  Because many religions that self identify as pagan are not even remotely wiccan.  Greek recons try to reconstruct the ancient Greek religion.  Roman recons, the ancient Roman religion.  Different gods, different practices, different beliefs.  Kemetic (Egyptian recon) is very different from either of these.  So is Celtic recon.  And Asatru.  And none of these are remotely like wicca.  

If you want to understand each of these religions that in depth, perhaps some time researching on your own is called for.
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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #19 on: December 07, 2011, 10:36:51 pm »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;33559

I don't think they should have anything in common, as though they must. But that begs the question, which I've asked a few times, why identify as "pagan" if the term "non-Abrahamic" would suffice? Why the need for a separate term? Why aren't these forums (which I've very much enjoyed reading) called "The Cauldron: A Non-Abrahamic Religions Forum", for instance.


It's a negative definition, so it's not very satisfactory as a label--it names Pagans as who they're not, instead of who they are, which people don't generally do. (Seriously, would Hindus call themselves non-Taoists, even though it's accurate?) Non-Abrahamic sketches out the boundaries but doesn't say much of anything about the territory inside, which is wide and extremely varied. "Pagan" fits various people more or less comfortably, and people embrace, accept, or begrudgingly tolerate it for different reasons.

"Pagans" is probably about as useful a label as "animals"--a general group that isn't plants or minerals, that can be broken down into a number of more or less closely related groups, but that ultimately doesn't have much in the way of universality other than consuming other living things and being mostly motile. :)

And there sometimes tends to be pushback against attempts to unify or universalize Pagan religions for exactly this reason--witness the recent foofooraw over the American Council of Witches, take 2.

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #20 on: December 08, 2011, 01:13:37 am »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;33559
I don't think they should have anything in common, as though they must. But that begs the question, which I've asked a few times, why identify as "pagan" if the term "non-Abrahamic" would suffice? Why the need for a separate term? Why aren't these forums (which I've very much enjoyed reading) called "The Cauldron: A Non-Abrahamic Religions Forum", for instance.

Sanatana,

keep in mind that word usage develops in a cultural context - in this case, a cultural context where Abrahamic religions are so ingrained that, for example, when talking about religion, I have to specify that I'm "religious but not Christian", and then get looked at like I'm speaking Martian because people are barely aware that that's an option as a non-Arabic person - or rather, they never considered the possibility.

In that context, "Pagan" was the word that was used for religions that were *other* and therefore bad, so that's the word that got reclaimed when these religions returned into view over the last decades. It's really not so much "this is a word that fits" and "this is what those others call us". (Which also explains why non-Western majority religions don't use the label - they're not dealing with this same context.)

So yeah, I guess there's a commonality in that they're all dealing with the same cultural context from an outsider's perspective - but that says nothing at all about the content of the groups in question.

--Chabas
« Last Edit: December 08, 2011, 01:14:30 am by Chabas »

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #21 on: December 08, 2011, 02:06:43 am »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;33257

4. To what degree are the theological differences between varying pagan or Pagan groups irreconcilable?


Some Pagans have paths that completely revolve around the worship of gods, some are atheist. I don't know how you could get much more irreconcilable.


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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2011, 05:34:31 am »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;33559
I don't think they should have anything in common, as though they must. But that begs the question, which I've asked a few times, why identify as "pagan" if the term "non-Abrahamic" would suffice? Why the need for a separate term? Why aren't these forums (which I've very much enjoyed reading) called "The Cauldron: A Non-Abrahamic Religions Forum", for instance.

 
You may also find this discussion, on our archive board, illuminating.

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SanatanaDharma

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #23 on: December 09, 2011, 03:09:25 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;33989
You may also find this discussion, on our archive board, illuminating.

Sunflower

 
Sunflower, thank you for that thread. It was very illuminating reading, since I got to better understand where many of the members here are coming from, and what their concerns are. I want to be sensitive to those concerns.

I'd like to make a few clarifications here, before I make myself unwelcome on these forums, in case anyone is misunderstanding my intentions... I didn't want to share my own now short-lived, dead-in-the-water theory to avoid conflict with anyone who might disagree with it, but it seems that without people knowing where I'm coming from, they may try to fill in the blanks in such a way that my own intentions are misconstrued and I become suspect.

So, let me clarify.

I considered myself Wiccan for a time, many years ago. Although Wiccan religion may be satisfying for some, it became unsatisfying for me for a number of reasons. The first and foremost reason was that I didn't feel it was feeding me spiritually. I now believe that this was because that vast majority of the literature I could find on Wicca was centered, essentially, on ceremonial magic practices derived from modern groups (and all the literature I could find basically consisted of New-Agey rehashings of the same). Fine for those who are into that, but magic wasn't feeding me spiritually. I was also deeply disappointed with the lack of historicity and connection to genuine ancient traditions as practiced by those who I wanted some sense of connection to, in ancient times. I wanted primordial, ancient religion.

Enter reconstructionism. Some time ago I discover that there are pagans who are interested in historic pagan religion(s), in scholarly academic research, etc. My heart leaps for joy. But, I soon realize that reconstructionists are split into an array of groups along ethnic lines: Celtic reconstructionism, Hellenismos, religio Romana, Kemeticism, Asatru, etc. This is beautiful and perfect for those involved in those various groups, but disappointing to me, since I don't feel comfortable with ethnic religion, either that of others, or of my own (yes, I know that one needn't be of any ethnic descent to identify with and practice with many of these groups). I can respect those who feel that connection with those various ancient cultures and their respective pantheons, but I suffer from the grave problem of feeling connected to all of them.

I began to suspect, seeing as these various cultures demonstrated aspects of polytheism, respect for numerous forces in the world, as opposed to the exclusivistic claims of the JCI paradigm, that this was their common (and I thought, their most important thread) which contradistinguished them with the JCI paradigm. This gave me a bit of hope that "syncretic reconstruction" was not an impossibility, that there was a common thread in human religion where pluralism was concerned, which I suspected could stem from polytheistic notions of the divine.

The purpose of my questions was to test the fundamental premises of my theory without prejudicing anyone against my theory by tossing it out there. I also wanted to make sure people were honest in how they answered (that is, that no one who agreed with it would simply twist answers in order to support it or make it seem more credible).

However, responses here have shown me that to members of various pagan groups, as I've enountered them on this forum, there can be no union of their groups and their beliefs are in absolute contradiction. In all honesty, I was hoping this wouldn't be so, but I'm not one to turn a blind eye to reality because I don't like it, especially in matters of comparative religion, which I take very seriously and have studied for quite some time now (while I appreciate links to the basics on various groups, I am well past the basics).

Let me state very clearly, so there can be no mistaking my intentions: If the concensus of a religious group is that they are of necessity separate from another group, I respect their right to that. Religious groups have every right to and should define their own beliefs. I would presume to force nothing on someone else's group.
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Jenett

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #24 on: December 09, 2011, 05:08:27 pm »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;34068

This gave me a bit of hope that "syncretic reconstruction" was not an impossibility, that there was a common thread in human religion where pluralism was concerned, which I suspected could stem from polytheistic notions of the divine.


Here's the thing, though - you're talking about two different issues: philosophy/belief/thoughts versus actual practice.

I do very strongly believe in pluralism, and I have given time, effort, and money to create and anchor spaces (both online and offline, and both professionally and personally) that give people from a variety of ways to come together, respectfully share ideas and thoughts, learn from what others do, and so and and so forth.

I really like those moments.

However, when it comes to practice of my religion, "Lots of stuff is awesome, yay!" does not actually make for good ritual.

A good parallel for me is either music or food. I like a variety of kinds of music, for a variety of reasons - but that doesn't mean I like every piece of music ever written, or in the same way, or want to listen to it for the same reasons.

Likewise, I like lots of different kinds of food, but that doesn't mean I want lutefisk, dense chocolate brownies, a spicy curry, and sushi all in the same plate, either.

In my religious life, I like working in a small group of people who are well-known to me (or at least are compatible enough that we're trying to figure the longer-term fit out), doing ritual and magical work that has both a certain amount of repeated structure (because that does things to my brain and emotions that nothing else I've tried does) but that also has some freedom for improvisation.  (And that's before we get to much in the way of specifics of which deities we honor, ritual cycles, methods and focus of magical workings, or whatever else.)

I am not a good fit for people who really like spur-of-the-moment ritual practice that changes from ritual to ritual, or people who are less theistic than I am, or people who do consensus process badly, or any number of other things, many of which are perfectly reasonable choices. But that's okay: I can be interested in what they do, and learn about it, and care about creating spaces they can talk about it and do it, without wanting to do it that way myself. (Except maybe rarely as a guest.)

Quote

I now believe that this was because that vast majority of the literature I could find on Wicca was centered, essentially, on ceremonial magic practices derived from modern groups (and all the literature I could find basically consisted of New-Agey rehashings of the same). Fine for those who are into that, but magic wasn't feeding me spiritually.


I'm quoting this bit from earlier in your post because I think it illustrates some of your point. I'm not particularly fond of the book-published Wiccan materials.

On the other hand, I *am* deeply happy in an initiatory religious witchcraft tradition that certainly includes some things seen in those books - but also some things that aren't, and some things that have grown up through close, regular, fairly intense practice over a decade and a half's worth of time.

There are ways in which I wish specific historical roots were deeper. But there are ways in which it turns out that that's actually good for me - a lot of my training required me to get out of intellectualising everything, and work more with intuition, emotion, and internal response. Turns out to be a great thing for me. Might not be the right thing for someone else.

When we try to lump everything in together, in my experience, we make it hard for people to find the spaces and paths and practices that really do work for them. Just like what you found in published material about Wicca wasn't a good fit for you - but maybe an initiatory group might have been. (Maybe not, too, but I certainly know people who've said basically exactly what you've said here, for whom it was.)
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Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #25 on: December 11, 2011, 06:19:43 am »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;34068

I began to suspect, seeing as these various cultures demonstrated aspects of polytheism, respect for numerous forces in the world, as opposed to the exclusivistic claims of the JCI paradigm, that this was their common (and I thought, their most important thread) which contradistinguished them with the JCI paradigm. This gave me a bit of hope that "syncretic reconstruction" was not an impossibility, that there was a common thread in human religion where pluralism was concerned, which I suspected could stem from polytheistic notions of the divine.

Couple of thoughts - no one said you cannot be multiple reconsider at the same time, or find a way to combine them.  Some people do just that.  Or you can worship the old gods in new ways - at least some of us here do that.

What I've been doing with flamekeeping is basically that.   It's a new structure, but it's built around some new ideas and some old ones.

There isn't one right way of doing things.  Yes we're coming from different places, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from each other.  It just means you can't mush it all into one pile without changing what the pieces are.

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #26 on: September 09, 2012, 08:34:54 pm »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;33257
Let me preface this post by saying that I'd like to avoid sharing my own views on this forum just yet, as I'm a neophyte here and well aware of potential abrasive types on forae throughout the internet who like to pounce on neophytes. I'd like to test the waters out first.

I had a few questions after reading the Pagan Primer on this site, and a particular thread where a few forum members claimed that "Paganism" as such was not a religion, but merely a grouping of many disparate religions. The site's Pagan Primer says the same: "Paganism isn't a religion any more than Monotheism is a religion."

Admittedly, my preconceptions aside, I was confused by the capitalisation of both "Paganism" (since the Primer states that it is not a religion) and "Monotheism" as though they were pronouns.

So, I have a few questions:

1. Is there anything more to defining paganism or Paganism than a particular religion being non-Abrahamic (and perhaps identifying as "pagan")?

2. According to this site's Pagan Primer, a religion should not only be non-Abrahamic but self-identify as "pagan". What does this mean in places where the word "pagan" doesn't exist, if self-identification aside, the word should simply mean non-Abrahamic? Isn't "non-Abrahamic" enough , if all these disparate religions have in common is their non-Abrahamic nature?

3. Is there anything, theologically, which unites religions that may profess to be pagan or Pagan?

4. To what degree are the theological differences between varying pagan or Pagan groups irreconcilable?

5. If pagan religions are not a unified, universal Pagan religion, to what degree are the varying religions under the pagan adjective exclusivistic, pluralistic, or universalist in outlook?

 
I think Chabas hit the nail on the head. There are the Abrahamic faiths, and whatever pre-existed Abraham were called pagan by the Abrahamic faiths.

I think the other characteristic defining paganism is the idea of freedom of religion and tolerance of other religions not just those based on Abraham.

As wikipedia put it:  Characteristic of Pagan traditions is the absence of proselytism and the presence of a living mythology, which informs religious practice.

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #27 on: September 10, 2012, 12:20:07 pm »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;33257
Let me preface this post by saying that I'd like to avoid sharing my own views on this forum just yet, as I'm a neophyte here and well aware of potential abrasive types on forae throughout the internet who like to pounce on neophytes. I'd like to test the waters out first.

I had a few questions after reading the Pagan Primer on this site, and a particular thread where a few forum members claimed that "Paganism" as such was not a religion, but merely a grouping of many disparate religions. The site's Pagan Primer says the same: "Paganism isn't a religion any more than Monotheism is a religion."

Admittedly, my preconceptions aside, I was confused by the capitalisation of both "Paganism" (since the Primer states that it is not a religion) and "Monotheism" as though they were pronouns.

So, I have a few questions:

1. Is there anything more to defining paganism or Paganism than a particular religion being non-Abrahamic (and perhaps identifying as "pagan")?

2. According to this site's Pagan Primer, a religion should not only be non-Abrahamic but self-identify as "pagan". What does this mean in places where the word "pagan" doesn't exist, if self-identification aside, the word should simply mean non-Abrahamic? Isn't "non-Abrahamic" enough , if all these disparate religions have in common is their non-Abrahamic nature?

3. Is there anything, theologically, which unites religions that may profess to be pagan or Pagan?

4. To what degree are the theological differences between varying pagan or Pagan groups irreconcilable?

5. If pagan religions are not a unified, universal Pagan religion, to what degree are the varying religions under the pagan adjective exclusivistic, pluralistic, or universalist in outlook?

 
One of the basic problems that gets widely overlooked in debates like these is that we don't really know how to define 'religion'. Philosophers of religion would say that religions have things in common like the worship of god(s) and hierarchies such as priesthood - but there are religions that have neither of those. Sociologists of religion (I put myself in that camp) tend to be able to define an ecclesia, a church, a sect and a New Religious Movement, but shy away from saying what a religion is. (They tend to lump Neo-Paganism under 'New Religious Movements'.) There is nothing that all religions have in common, although there are some common elements between most of them.

In the colloquial sense, we understand what religion is, and Neo-Paganism doesn't seem to be one. But we can get so caught up in that colloquial understanding of the term that we forget that religion, which has always been near-impossible to define, is changing - fast. New Religious Movements are at the centre of those changes. The very fact that Neo-Pagans are willing to share that term among many specific religious paths is going to be something that, in the future, we look back on as an example of one of those major changes.

So do I think Neo-Paganism is a religion? Well, sociology of religion often refers to much looser networks as one religious movement - like, say, the New Age movement. I think it's a religious movement, and I'm not sure I need much more definition than that.

And honestly, I think I have more in common with other Pagans from different specific religious paths than I ever did with most Christians, when I was a Christian!
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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #28 on: September 10, 2012, 12:45:58 pm »
Quote from: SanatanaDharma;34068

However, responses here have shown me that to members of various pagan groups, as I've enountered them on this forum, there can be no union of their groups and their beliefs are in absolute contradiction. In all honesty, I was hoping this wouldn't be so, but I'm not one to turn a blind eye to reality because I don't like it, especially in matters of comparative religion, which I take very seriously and have studied for quite some time now (while I appreciate links to the basics on various groups, I am well past the basics).

Let me state very clearly, so there can be no mistaking my intentions: If the concensus of a religious group is that they are of necessity separate from another group, I respect their right to that. Religious groups have every right to and should define their own beliefs. I would presume to force nothing on someone else's group.


Why do you want to be able to mix and match religious practices on a whim anyways? Are you actually looking for a livable, sustainable religious structure for application in your life, or is all this just a thought experiment? Syncretism doesn't just happen because you suddenly want it to happen-- it takes decades of religio-political struggle among a group of people, or it takes hundreds of hours of research so that one can do it manually. And that's just if you want to blend two, like is commonly found throughout history as a coping mechanism for religious oppression. You can't just... decide to syncretize all the religions because differences make you uncomfortable.

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Re: Paganism not a religion, but an adjective.
« Reply #29 on: September 10, 2012, 01:00:12 pm »
I don't identify as pagan, so you might want to be aware of that when reading my post.

Quote
1. Is there anything more to defining paganism or Paganism than a particular religion being non-Abrahamic (and perhaps identifying as "pagan")?


To riff somewhat off Juniperberry's post, I see "paganism" as primarily a marker of subcultural identity.

Quote
2. According to this site's Pagan Primer, a religion should not only be non-Abrahamic but self-identify as "pagan". What does this mean in places where the word "pagan" doesn't exist, if self-identification aside, the word should simply mean non-Abrahamic? Isn't "non-Abrahamic" enough , if all these disparate religions have in common is their non-Abrahamic nature?


I don't think you can put self-identification aside.  I think it's a crucial part of being a pagan.  (There are complicated issues surrounding identification by others when it comes to subculture.  So I do think it's possible that people who don't identify as pagan will be labelled as such.  I don't think that's particularly helpful in terms of understanding the term though, so it's best avoided).

On top of that, "in places where the word "pagan" doesn't exist", I don't think paganism exists in any meaningful way.  It's very much a term borne out of Western thinking.

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3. Is there anything, theologically, which unites religions that may profess to be pagan or Pagan?


No, at least not all religions.  Some may have more commonalities then others.  But there isn't any universally held theological principle.  

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4. To what degree are the theological differences between varying pagan or Pagan groups irreconcilable?


In some cases, completely.  (This doesn't mean it's not possible to believe them both at the same time, but you're deliberately believing contradictions if so).  You don't even get theological agreement within Christianity (see the faith vs works argument as an example), which has far more in common than the varied strands of paganism.

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5. If pagan religions are not a unified, universal Pagan religion, to what degree are the varying religions under the pagan adjective exclusivistic, pluralistic, or universalist in outlook?


Again, that varies from religion to religion.  There are some that would fit into each categories.  You can possibly divide it up into subcategories though, but even there you're talking about trends rather than a universal rule.  Also, are you talking about exclusivistic, pluralistic and universalist in theological terms, or do you mean it in terms of how they operate on a social basis?
Your heart is a muscle as big as your fist.

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